My Mideast Punchlines: time will tell…

US President Donald Trump has compared the deadly conflict between Turkish forces and Kurds in north-eastern Syria to a fight between children.

“Like two kids in a lot, you have got to let them fight and then you pull them apart,” he told a rally in Texas.

Turkey has agreed to a US request to suspend operations so long as Kurdish fighters leave the border area.

But fighting appeared to continue on Friday despite a denial by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

biffOn the face of it, Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds and green light to Erdogan seems to have allowed Syria and Russia to fill the vacuum. Time will tell if this proves to be a monumental error. With so many tweets and volte faces, Trump is in danger of turning into a bigger idiot than Barack Obama. Of course, the major difference is that The Donald is our idiot.


My Midast Punchlines: oops!

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that it’s still too early to say who struck an Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea with missiles on Friday, but did say that one country had conducted the attack with the help of other nations.

The statements were made during a press conference on Monday.

“For sure, a regime assisted by certain states has carried out this [attack], and we are studying the incident to see what has happened,” said Rouhani, according to the Iranian Fars news.

Rouhani said that Iran had a video showing “a number of missiles” fired at the tanker, with two hitting the tanker itself, according to the Iranian IRNA news agency. The video, taken from a camera on the tanker itself, show where the rockets were fired from and from what angle.

Now, here’s what all freedom-loving nations will wish to hear when the Iranian’s finally discover the perpetrators of the evil deed:

biffIran today announced that it had finally uncovered the source of the missiles that struck an Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea. “It was us what did it,” said a government spokesman. “We’d love to find someone else to blame, but the plain fact is our missiles lost their bearings while we were trying to attack the Saudis again.”

And pigs will fly….

My Mideast Punchlines: Jurassic bark….

The ruins of a 5,000-year-old megalopolis were uncovered in northern Israel, the Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday.

The ruins were exposed in a major excavation project in the Ein Assur site near Harish. The city was the largest in the area during the Bronze Age with about 6,000 people inhabiting it, a huge number at the time.

Last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas barked at the UN Security Council that “we are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land 5,000 years ago and continued to live there to this day.”

biffWell, folks, if further proof was needed, here it is. The Palestinians were around in the Bronze age. Indeed, they probably even cavorted with dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. It’s about time Steven Spielberg made Jurassic Park 3 1/2 – the Untold Story.

My Mideast Punchlines: let me outta here!

The prosecutor who has led the three corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism on Sunday, after she went on vacation and missed the day’s pre-indictment legal proceedings.

A source close to Netanyahu said Liat Ben-Ari, by taking a family vacation this week — as the third and fourth day of the prime minister’s hearings are held — had given the impression that she has already decided the outcome of the hearings and thus did not bother attending. The Justice Ministry defended her, but a ministry source acknowledged her actions showed a lack of public sensitivity.

“It looks like she formed an opinion — and then went,” an aide to Netanyahu told Channel 13 television news. “She is the one who will deal with the case if it goes to court and she needs to know every nuance. The decision [to go on vacation] is simply scandalous.”

Ben-Ari will also miss the final days of the hearing.

biffThis quote seems to imply the aide believes Ben-Ari sees the indictment as a slam-dunk for the prosecution. But what if she just got spooked by the defence’s addition of top U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz to its roster and took off to South Africa to avoid the flak if the cases against Bibi are dropped. “I’m a celebrity lawyer, get me outta here!”

My Mideast Punchlines: silly sausage…

The commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Monday that destroying Israel was now an “achievable goal.”

Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.

“This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream [but] it is an achievable goal,” Salami said.

biffIsrael is more likely to have Salami on rye than the other way around. I defer to an Iranian immigrant sandlar (shoe repairer) in Givatayim some years back. We were discussing the Iranian regime’s rhetoric. He simply held up his right hand and made a Pacman action. Blah-blah and more blah.



My Mideast Punchlines: bits and pieces…

If Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces” of Tel Aviv from the Mediterranean Sea, an Iranian commander threatened on Saturday.

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides. Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim. “Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“If Israel makes a strategic mistake, it has to collect bits and pieces of Tel Aviv from the lower depths of the Mediterranean Sea,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday issued further threats against Israel, saying the Lebanese terror organization’s “unprecedented levels of intelligence” would soon lead to its fighters “entering occupied Palestine.”

biffFirstly, by unprecedented levels of intelligence Nasrallah means he’s now reading Israel Hayom as well as Yediot Aharonoth. Of course, the fluent Hebrew speaker also prides himself on watching every Israeli TV channel at once from his underground bunker. There he finds enough punditry to satisfy his insatiable appetite. However, even Israel’s diehard blowhards would be hard put to match the bluster coming out of Tehran, which seems to forget that Israel is purported to have 200 nuclear bombs ready and able to reduce Iran to something considerably finer than bits and pieces. Dust, for instance.

My Mideast Punchlines: all the fun of the fair..

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that he would not meet US President Donald Trump without trust between them being restored first, in an extensive interview with Fox News which aired Tuesday.

Moreover, he accused Israel and the US of supporting terrorism in the Middle East, stated that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapon and denied that Tehran was responsible for the attack against Saudi oil facilities.

Rouhani is currently in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Iran and the stability of the region have been among the most pressing topics discussed by the world leaders who have gathered for the event.

Rouhani said that in order for him to meet with US President Donald Trump mutual trust would need to be restored first, excluding that the two could face each other in an impromptu meeting along the corridors of the building.

“Why would we bump into one another?” the Iranian leader told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “If we seek to pursue higher goals to benefit both countries, both people, it must be planned, and talks must be based on those plans.

biffRouhani’s reticence is understandable. I mean, the Donald can be like a deranged dodgem car at the fairground, so you wouldn’t want to collide with him under any circumstances. Just ask John Bolton and all the rest of Trump’s minions who have been “bumped” out of office.

My Mideast Punchlines: bring back ol’ rubber lips…

The Likud and Blue and White negotiating teams are set to meet on Tuesday, before their respective party leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz return to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday for another meeting, after the one on Monday night.

That meeting ended without white smoke out of Beit Hanassi’s chimney, so to speak, but it seems like the only way out of the current electoral mess is a unity government with a rotation for prime minister.

Both candidates have reasonable arguments as to why they should be prime minister. Gantz’s Blue and White received the most seats in the Knesset, with 33, but while Likud only has 31 seats, Netanyahu has more recommendations, with 55 to Gantz’s 54.

Notably, neither has a majority behind him, which means neither has a clear path to a coalition.

biffLook, folks, the permutations are endless and I’m not going to bore you with them. So here’s a bit of light entertainment: the wraith-like Mahatma Gandhi once posited that Jews would be better off allowing the Arabs to rule Palestine, as it would guarantee that they would would receive the world’s sympathy. Hats off to Mahatma. What a great idea to solve the nation’s political impasse. Had he not been assassinated in January, 1948, the Indian leader would no doubt have championed someone like Yasser Arafat. The problem, of course, is that ol’ rubber lips is also pushing up daisies, and in the immortal words of my dear late father-in-law, you can’t trust an Arab forty years in his grave. Besides, surrogates like Mahmoud Abbas just don’t quite cut the mustard, do they?


My Mideast Punchlines: on and on….

The Joint List made history on Sunday evening when its leader Ayaman Odeh recommended Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister in its meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.

“We are looking for the way to prevent Netanyahu from being prime minister, and that is what most of the public wants,” Odeh told Rivlin.  “Therefore, our recommendation is for Gantz to form the next government.”

Arab parties have not recommended a candidate for prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, but the Joint List is strongly considering backing Gantz because their votes would likely make the difference for him to receive the first chance to form a government, as opposed to Netanyahu.

biffMost Jewish Israelis see the Arab parties as fifth columnists, so their support for Gantz is grating. However, it’s getting tougher and tougher for Bibi to command a coalition majority. Still, if it turns out in a few weeks that there needs to be yet another round of elections in March, then (barring any indictment on the criminal charges he faces) he can stay on as caretaker prime minister. With the country split down the middle, we could theoretically have election after election, and stalemate after stalemate, which reminds of that old joke about the archeologists who discovered a 3,000-year-old mummy in Egypt. When they unwound the bandages they were amazed to find it was still alive. It’s first question when released from its tomb was: “is Bibi still caretaker prime minister?”

My Mideast Punchlines: love-fest on the edge…

It wasn’t akin to the US recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but on Saturday US President Trump extended a preelection gesture to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he tweeted that he would meet the prime minister later this month and discuss an Israel-US security pact.

“I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!”

Netanyahu responded by tweeting back to Trump: “Thank you my dear friend President @realDonaldTrump. The Jewish State has never had a greater friend in the White House.”

biffAt first sight, the proposed pact might appear to be quite comforting to embattled Israelis. Yet it’s a two-edged sword. Israel might have its hands tied by having to seek American permission when it comes to certain military actions. Another factor is whether the current Trump-Netanyahu love-fest will continue following Tuesday’s Israeli elections. A different prime minister might baulk at getting into bed with the Donald.